Privileged to be at this party

GIG REVIEW: BABYSHAMBLES @ THE JUNCTION, JANUARY 23 WITH the show arranged, announced and sold out in just days, there was a rare feeling of spontaneity on the night. Also, combining Pete Doherty s omnipresence in the tabloids, the settling of the band s

GIG REVIEW: BABYSHAMBLES @ THE JUNCTION, JANUARY 23

WITH the show arranged, announced and sold out in just days, there was a rare feeling of spontaneity on the night. Also, combining Pete Doherty's omnipresence in the tabloids, the settling of the band's recent debut album in people's consciousness and his pending court hearing made the night feel wonderfully precious.

Indeed, just days later Doherty was arrested (twice in one day) and remanded in jail pending his sentence for drugs possession - with the remaining dates on the tour naturally being cancelled.

Arriving on stage at gone 10.30pm, he succeeded in making the likes of Shane McGowan seem obsessively punctual. As roadies continually tuned guitars and tweaked wires I wondered if they were just entertaining the crowd, but eventually the band appeared and played a magical mess of a set.

Doherty has a fantastic, yet self-deprecating stage presence. He falls about, sits down and wanders the stage. He's quite unimposing and when he says to the crowd: "Sorry I was late", it's as if he's talking to a friend he's let down. There's no confrontation with the crowd; it's as if he's just part of the party and everyone's surprised but really glad he turned up.

And it's a great, great party. The sound is as rough as Pete looks, but everything that needs to be there is working wonders.

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Sometimes it's just a mess, no more no less - and it would be wrong to read anything more into it. But quite often the crowd are jumping or just staring as Pete and his band perform genuine masterpieces.

As the slow, melancholic guitar of Albion begins, a whole lot of people simply hush in respect and anticipation. "Come away, we could go to...Deptford, Catford, Watford, Digbeth, Mansfield." It's darkly and wryly romantic - and aches with both sadness and humour.

Forever mixes Nirvana, Pulp and The Sex Pistols to chaotic effect and serves as a perfect closer.

Let no one judge Pete Doherty only from their paparazzi glimpses - above all else he is a very special talent. And his songwriting, in particular Albion, will be a testament to that for ever.

CHRIS BOLAND

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